Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wear it with Pride

Sometimes the management of the State Department gets it right, and when it does so, it deserves our approval. For example, todays mail informs us that the Department has created a medal to recognize the sacrifices of children of FSO parents assigned to unaccompanied posts.

The minor children of employees assigned to unaccompanied posts are now apparently eligible for medals and certificates of appreciation, preferably to be presented at public ceremonies.

In all honesty I find that to be an excellent idea.

In the first place, as the Department notice observes, it is a good way to publicly recognize and increase awareness of the sacrifices made by the families of FSOs serving at unaccompanied posts.

In the second, it might impress on the security clearance adjudicators of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security the fact that not everyone who grows up overseas is "less American" than those who grew up within our borders.

It is an interesting irony that, while Foreign Service Officers are expected to be professionally interested in foreign cultures and customs, and while many FSOs are, themselves, the children of FSOs, DS has traditionally regarded a Foreign Service upbringing as suspect.

Children of FSOs who were raised overseas are seen by DS's security clearance adjudicators as possessing too much empathy for the people of other countries, which DS, in its wisdom, inevitably equates with a lack of patriotism.

The fact of the matter is very much the opposite.

If one defines patriotism as pride in one's national heritage, a sense of belonging to a nation, a desire to represent what is best in one's nation, and a desire to see one's nation act in ways that are respected in the world, then, as a group, the children of Foreign Service Officers are probably more patriotic than most citizens who grew up within our borders.

The fact of the matter is that the Foreign Service is elite. Yes, I said the "E" word. We are elite. In the same way that Green Berets, Rangers and Seals are elite. We do a special job. We are among the best at what we do. And we do it with pride.

And what we do is represent America to the world, and advance the causes of our country and its citizens in every country with which we have diplomatic relations.

And just as the children of elite military professionals take pride in the ways their parents serve our country, so too do the children of FSOs. Moreover, in many cases the children of FSOs are taught, from whatever age they enter this life, that they represent America just as their FSO parents do. That they too must comport themselves in a manner that brings credit to our country. That they too, in their own way and in their own environment, are little American diplomats.

And that conciousness, from an early age, of who we are and what we represent, makes Foreign Service children more patriotic than anyone who ever grew up without ever thinking of these things.

The military has known this for a long time. One of the reasons that many military children grow up to enter the military themselves is that they are exposed in childhood to the ideals that the military represents.

It is high time that DS should recognize the same fact as it applies to the children of FSOs.

The Foreign Service is forced to walk a fine line. When we recognize ourselves as possessing special skills and talents, we are criticised as being out of touch with our fellow Americans. And in order to demonstrate that we are not out of touch, that we are not elitist, we often go to the opposite extreme, giving the unfortunate impression that there is nothing special or particularly important about what we do.

What we should do, instead, is take our cue from the military. Take pride in our skills. Take pride in our sacrifices. And recognize them in public ways.

A medal for our children may seem silly at first. But it's a good way to remind America, and ourselves, of who we are. And with what values we raise our children.

1 comment:

Dusty said...

Isn't the DS paranoid of anything and everything?

Of course FSO's should be proud..its not a cushy job anymore...bombs and things dropping near by, people hating on anyone American..hazardous duty.